The Canadiens are off to a great start, but are looking for someone to play top-four minutes to take pressure off of Shea Weber and Andrei Markov.
The Montreal Canadiens finished October with a record of 8-0-1, perched atop the Eastern Conference and the NHL's overall standings. However, there are concerns about their blueline depth that's sparked some trade speculation.
Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos reports the Canadiens will be in the trade market for a top-four rearguard to take some of the burden off Shea Weber and Andrei Markov. He didn't indicate who they could target or when they might make this move.
Since coming to Montreal in an off-season trade from Nashville, Weber's become a big part of the Canadiens' early-season success. However, Kypreos notes the 31-year-old was burned out in the Predators second-round series against the San Jose Sharks last spring.
While Weber is off to a strong start, the Habs must avoid overplaying him over the course of the season. Same goes for the 37-year-old Markov.
Should Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin shop for a top-four defenseman, he could target clubs with blueline depth in need of shedding salary. The Anaheim Ducks and Philadelphia Flyers are two possibilities. With $2.2 million in salary-cap room, he can't afford to take on an expensive contract.
Given his club's strong start, Bergevin can afford to be patient. If he pursues a blueliner, the move could take place later in the season as more clubs fall out of playoff contention.
HOWARD COULD BE SOLUTION IN NET FOR SEVERAL TEAMS
In October, the Arizona Coyotes, Boston Bruins and Los Angeles Kings lost their starting goalies to injuries. Meanwhile, the Carolina Hurricanes, Philadelphia Flyers and Toronto Maple Leafs struggled between the pipes.
ESPN.com's Craig Custance wonders if those clubs are putting in calls to the Detroit Red Wings for veteran goalie Jimmy Howard. It's believed the Wings attempted to move the 32-year-old in the off-season but couldn't find any takers.
In four games-played in October, Howard won two, lost one and spelled off Petr Mrazek in the Wings 5-2 loss on Oct. 30 to the Florida Panthers. His goals-against average is a minuscule 0.86 and his save percentage is an impressive .973.
Wings GM Ken Holland told Custance he hasn't received any trade calls on anyone yet, pointing out it's still very early in the season. Should Howard continue playing well, he could be enticing for teams in desperate need of goaltending help. His $5.2-million annual salary-cap hit and modified no-trade clause, however, remain significant stumbling blocks in working out a trade.
HURRICANES DANGLING MURPHY?
Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Ryan Murphy could become available in the trade market. TSN's Darren Dreger reports the 23-year-old right-shot blueliner needs less than 40 games to qualify for exposure in next June's NHL expansion draft. He speculates Hurricanes GM Ron Francis could move him before then.
Selected 12th overall in the 2011 NHL Draft, Murphy's struggled to stick with the Hurricanes. He's also been plagued by injuries. He was sidelined throughout October by a pre-season lower-body injury. The rise of promising defensemen Noah Hanifin, Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce could make Murphy expendable.
Despite Murphy's issues, his youth, potential and right-handed shot could prove attractive for clubs seeking such assets. He also carries a very affordable $787,000 annual cap hit on a two-year deal.
If the Hurricanes goaltending fails to improve soon, Francis could go shopping for help. Murphy could be dangled as bait for a netminder.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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